The Civil Air Patrol Promoting Positive Youth Development

by Heather Redix & George Redix, Jr.

Housed on the Texarkana Airport property, the 95th Composite Squadron is the local branch of the Civil Air Patrol, serving the greater Texarkana area.

Upon entering the building, I am greeted by a well-mannered young man. He opens the door and shakes my hand, as if I were just as important as the President of the United States of America. “How are you doing, ma’am? Will you please sign-in?” As I sign my name, the young man asks me and my son George if we are thirsty. I request a coke, and George, taking full advantage, a Dr. Pepper. I smell pizza and notice many other teenagers walking around and conversing amongst each other.

“Welcome! You are in for a real treat! This is such a wonderful organization,” says Angie Nickerson, the mother of the young man who greeted me at the door. I sit in a chair directly across from Angie. Before the end of the meeting, I realize she was right! This is quite a special place!

Officially organized one week prior to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the Civil Air Patrol, better known as CAP, was formed by more than 500,000 patriotic American citizens who were willing to use their aviation skills for the protection of their country. Today, about 13 or so cadet members, aged 12-21 participate in the local branch. They all share an interest in aviation. Meeting every Monday evening at 6:00pm, CAP gives its members the knowledge and skills of aviation ranging from emergency services and aerospace education. Aside from the educational perspective, CAP plays a vital role in serving as a means of providing a safe environment for members, young and old, bringing about a positive change for the better.

“Before CAP, Coy would barely speak to strangers. He lacked confidence. In just one year of participation with CAP, he has made a complete change. He is no longer afraid to be himself.” Angie states. “And its all because of what this program has done for my son.” Not only is this organization one that teaches knowledge and skills, but it promotes positive character development and respect for one another.

To become a member of CAP, there is a minimum age of 12. At least one parent of an interested cadet would have to attend at least three meetings prior to official membership. Like many other organizations incorporating young men and women, parent participation is a key factor for the success of the group. Although there is some monetary support from the U.S. Air Force, CAP is a 501(c) 3 organization and much of the support comes from the parents and the senior cadets, as well as, occasional fundraising events. The more support the cadets gain, the more exposure they are given in the field of aviation.

“We are always looking for young men and women who are interested in aerospace and aviation,” states senior cadet member Lt. Col. Loren Ainsworth. “Last week I flew my grand-daughter, Holleigh, a new cadet member, over Texarkana after sundown. It is something she will never forget.” Holleigh is one of the younger Cadet members. At 12, she has been interested in joining for over a year.

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This summer, the cadets will be traveling to Camp Mindon, where they will train for about a week. Cadets get tested in fitness, aerospace education, and leadership. Passing each test results in an increase in rank and other rewards. Educational training includes a variety of subjects, such as the migration of bats, a project supported by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

Participation in the CAP program does not require you to join the U.S. Air Force, although it will prepare young men and women for the military, if they do decide to join. CAP also lays a solid foundation for students interested in attending college or joining the workforce.

Eagerly showing me a video of national CAP news, Coy states, “This is the best program I’ve ever been a part of. It changed my life for the better.”

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